Gianni Infantino, new FIFA president, wants 'best World Cup ever'

Gianni Infantino began his new job as the head of FIFA with a friendly soccer match on Monday, leaving matters such as his own salary for another day.

Infantino expects 2026 World Cup bidding process to begin before May

FIFA President Gianni Infantino and his teammates pose for a photo after a FIFA Team Friendly Football Match at the FIFA headquarters on February 29, 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)

Gianni Infantino began his new job as the boss of soccer's governing body, FIFA, with a friendly match on Monday, leaving matters such as his own salary for another day.

"I know you can't believe it, but it's not [for the] money that I was candidate to become FIFA president," he told reporters after a match with employees and guests.

Infantino said he expected the bidding process for the 2026 World Cup, delayed by the wide-reaching corruption scandal that engulfed the organization last year, to begin before FIFA holds its next congress in Mexico City in May.

The 2018 and 2022 tournaments to be staged in Russia and Qatar must be the "best in history," he said.

Monday's pickup soccer game, played in a freezing mist at FIFA headquarters, featured two seven-a-side matches involving employees and former professionals.

"Team Infantino" included former Portugal forward Luis Figo and former Italy defender Fabio Cannavaro.

"The hard work starts now, but I wanted to organize a football match with those who make the game what it is," Infantino said.

He also said he had not discussed his salary following his election on Friday. The pay of his predecessor Sepp Blatter, who has been suspended from soccer for six years, has never been made public.

Bidding process to come soon

Infantino appeared keen to get started on picking a host for the 2026 World Cup. 

"Definitely I think we need to launch the bidding process in the next couple of months, probably before the next Congress in May," Infantino said.

Under FIFA statutes that prevent the same continent from hosting the tournament twice in a row, it will not be staged in Asia.

"Concerning Qatar and Russia, the decisions were taken in 2010 by the executive committee, but since 2010 there has been speculation and allegations and noise.

"It's now necessary to organize the best World Cup in history in Russia in 2018 and in 2022 in Qatar," he said.

FIFA has been forced to investigate the decisions on the two tournaments, and an investigation is also under way by the Swiss attorney general's office.

The reforms passed on Friday include a separation of powers at FIFA, with a new Council due to replace the old executive committee and decide solely on strategic matters.

A separate general secretariat will run day-to-day operations and, crucially, make commercial decisions.

Infantino rejected the suggestion that he would enjoy less power than his predecessor, however. "I wouldn't say I have limited powers," he said. "I was elected on Friday to be the leader of FIFA. The leader is setting the tone, the leader will have to do some convincing work of course. It's not a dictatorship — it's a democracy, it's a participation." 


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